It’s been a bit of a struggle to get this post out a couple of days after I had planned to and the first real blip in the onebag blogging efforts. I knew it had to happen at some point. I am surprised I have managed to focus this long and kept it going. However the show must go on as the saying goes and that leads me nicely into the topic of conversation this week, or was that meant to be last week..
Last Wednesday I journeyed south to the Camping and Caravanning show at the NEC centre near Birmingham and the reason for my visit was partly down to the fact I won a couple of tickets thanks to Alde UK in a Twitter competition, on the whole I don’t win things and so with the benefit of free entrance I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out some minimal mobile living spaces. With the cost of housing both in the buying and also the rental markets skyrocketed in the last decade alternative cheaper forms of dwelling are being sought by many, not just those priced out of a roof over their heads but also people interested in living more intentionally and not get sucked into the consumerist dream. I have been giving a lot of consideration to the different forms of mobile living from camper vans, van conversions, caravans, canal boats and also although not quite mobile short term rentals and things like house sitting. But having ones own space however large or small is still ones own space and the joy of coming home is something that most of us take for granted. But looking at these alternatives makes me think what would it actually be like to live in a tiny space for an extended period. There are plenty of van life stories of sun drenched lifestyles, waking up to glorious sunrises and going to sleep with beautiful sunsets but to me the reality seems more like walking up in lay-by with lorries thundering by on a rainy winters morning and what about high winds and many other thoughts? Yes this may be my rather un-educated view but the reality is only something that can be lived to be experienced.
Back to the show and the the vans in all there formats that peaked my interest. As someone who knows virtually nothing about touring or caravanning or van life as have always flown to my holidays but now considering a mobile home it is amazing to what is on offer, not just the manufactured models but also the conversions. Now I also understand that these moving palaces are really aimed at a weekend wanderers or traditional get away breaks and may not necessarily be aimed at the full time live-aboard traveller. However with a minimal mentality space would not seem to be a problem with even the most compact of vans that I saw. Then there is a question or what is suitable for ones needs and the relative user requirements that can be summarised in good video by Andrew Ditton. But the fact that all these vehicles can be hired in some way and can be experienced to help
Then there is the van conversion market and browsing around Youtube will show you many examples of the amazing ingenuity of there builders. So the premise of picking a standard commercial van and slapping a micro flat inside depending on the model is certainly build for more rugged use. However the technologies and materials are readily available through the mature market of the caravan and motorhome suppliers. So many of the the amenities found in modern caravans are now easily purchased for a van build. Alde is case in point, on visiting their stand at the show I got a plumbing and heating catalogue with all their products which effectively brings a home heating system into a van, in fact theres nothing you can’t find to make your own little space comfy, clean and warm.
So finally some quick pics of some of the vans I took inspiration from. There is however a lot to be said for being able to change the scenery with the day.
I have been looking out for something suitable to be the basis of my onebagonelife experiment and as luck would have it I was donated this handsome suitcase by a generous donor who had used it for a few years but now felt they needed new. I had expected to have to buy a suitcase and looking around there is so much choice that it was a bit overwhelming so am happy in a way I don’t have to trawl the internet for reviews and posts about the best suitcase that would fit my needs. I had no idea that there were some many different types and the cost of some is staggering when you consider how much use one is normally likely to get out of it. For those few weeks away a year is it really worth spending many hundreds of pounds to keep ones clothes safe, well yes I know its more than that but… Maybe it’s me but I have never travelled with excessive quantities of stuff and for some time I have always attempted to travel with a minimum install, relying on the flexible friend to provide for anything I may have forgotten or overlooked. I had a friend who jokingly opined that all you needed to travel with was a toothbrush and a credit card, however this is just not practical in everyday life unless you want to be wasteful and end up with a mountain of stuff you may only have used a handful of times and I’m sure he didn’t live by his own credence. Certainly travelling with the bare minimum is practical as there are not many places that one travels to that services like washing or some spare items of clothing can’t be found.
But as I am not using the suitcase for that purpose it is not a problem for me, it is rather that it is my wardrobe, bathroom cabinet, bookshelf, writing desk, box of bits under the bed and many other things all rolled into one. Just how much it will hold I have no idea as I have not started to rationalise what I actually want to have with me at any given moment. There are the basics and as I have said in a previous post I will have a collection of items that I want to keep for either sentimental reasons or that will move with me to where I settle for longer periods that won’t be kept in the bag. However this needs to be small as I don’t want to clutter up my families space(s) to the point they don’t want to look after it for me.
So the more compact I can make the contents of my suitcase the better. I have this idea that it is a Swiss Army knife of storage, not including that “thing to take stones out of horses hoofs” though, but more like it has the necessary equipment for different modes of living. As an example I have a day sack that can be used for hiking and the individual items can be swopped around depending on location and season but only is used on those occasions but things in it will also be used for daily life. Or, if I am staying somewhere for a prolonged period I have items to make it seem more like a home. This may seem very optimistic and I may have grossly over estimated the capacity to hold my life but this is the fun of finding out. Can one get set of bedding and such in on top of all the clothing etc. That’s where vacuum packing comes in and something I will be covering at a later date.
One aspect I am thinking about is the cost of replacement of all my worldly goods and chattels in the event of some disaster. If one is not attached to the ‘things’ then replacing is purely a logistics operation and with that in mind I set up an Amazon wish list with every item I have or am putting in the bag so that not only do I have an idea of the monetary value but also an easy and quick way to replace any lost item(s). It is also interesting to analyse what is actually important and what is nice to have. I think given that I will have very little space to have frivolous items this sharpens the mind to each individual item and its use and whether it may have multiple uses. I think this is where intentionalism is highlighted over minimalism as I am not living with nothing I am choosing very carefully the things I do own. It is a bit of a grey area to me but I prefer to think of this as an intentional choice.
This then leads to the need to have a buffer fund for replacement. Calculating this cost highlights that certainly the largest portion of the pie chart comes from the tech related kit. However there are always alternatives, but given that I am not going to be wasting loads trying to keep up with the latest I can be far more careful in how purchases need to be made.
I have been watching quite a lot of light weight camping channels and have been thinking how can I transpose the method in to day to day life. On the whole no one considers the weight of their household items but when you have to carry it around it makes a difference. There are many optimisations one can make but from what I see it comes at a cost. For the time being I will stick with what I have and maybe look at upgrading inventory as and when I can.
My plan to start off with is to have 14 days worth of general clothing and 3 items of weather proof gear and coats. However I hope to make these as light and compact as possible. This may prove way too much but only experience will tell. I know I am going to have to cut back somewhere but only by trying will I find out what works for me.
So onebagonelife has a bag!